The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reading this book was a joyful, cleansing experience. As we currently live in a time of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, hate-speech, that is clogging our governmental system and society, reading The Inquisitor's Tale was a refreshing reminder that love, acceptance, and kindness are the real reasons we exist.
Set in the 1200s, this is the story of three children (and a dog) from completely different races, cultures, and experiences. Jeanne is a Christian Peasant, William is a biracial oblate monk (orphan given to a monastery), and Jacob is a Jew. Each of them has a quality that makes them easily despised in medieval times: Jeanne, for her poverty, William, for his mother's Muslim blood, and Jacob, for refusing to believe in the divinity of Christ. Yet, by the grace of the Judeo-Christian God, they each have been given a miraculous gift and can perform miracles. This is both their blessing and curse as they live in a time of superstitious ignorance.
The story begins in a medieval inn with a group of people drinking ale and relating to the narrator the various origin stories of the three children, and their dog. They tell that the group is being hunted by King Louis the 9th for acts of Heresy. The stories they tell convince some that the children (and dog) are Saints, while others condemn them as devils for being "magical." All, however, are completely engrossed in the tale and want to hear more.
The children are set on their path because they have all been turned out of their homes for various reasons. Jeanne's town fears she may be a witch. William is too outspoken and strong to obey his closed-minded superiors in the monastery. Jacob is burned out of his village. Through Providence, the children meet, and decide to travel together.
Because of their divine gifts, every place that is touched by the children experiences some kind of miracle. Jeanne has visions of the future, William possesses super-human strength, and Jacob can heal mortal wounds. Every time their lives are in peril, the holy power of their goodness somehow transforms their adversaries into better people.
Eventually, their wandering becomes a quest to protect the knowledge and wisdom of the Jews, which is what brings the wrath of Louis the 9th upon them.
This is a tale of the Judeo-Christian God's love for His people and the many misinterpretations of how that love is expressed. It is a tale of misguided piety, and the hubris of believing that people have the right to judge others in their God's name. But mostly, this is a story of three wonderful children (and their dog) who bring hope, friendship, and meaning to the lives of many through their unique connection to their God.
Highly recommended to ages 12+ because of content. Contains an annotated list of sources, and an explanation for the historical characters and events that inspired this work of fiction.